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The Adorable Horribles

The Adorable Horribles is a fully-illustrated alphabet book, set on a strange, alien world full of bizarre creatures and their habitats. Each creature is a hybrid of two Earth creatures; their names overlapping to form an Adorable Horrible such as Crab + Rabbit = Crabbit! After 26 pages of weird creatures, an easy-to-use index is available for child and parent to decipher the origin of each creature.
2009—Pencil, ink, graphite, colored pencils, acrylic paint, glass, detergent, Q-Tips, leaves, Brillo pads, other assorted media; Adobe Photoshop

sample pages

I've also created this time-lapse video to document the process used for creating each hybrid. Before pencil hit paper, I spent time looking at lists of animal names to find potential overlaps (within the letters) and then a few minutes staring at different animal images to imagine the hybrid. Please note that this video is for educational purposes only and makes use of pre-existing music by the legendary Jerry Goldsmith.

Robert Bloch's Psycho Trilogy

I've always loved the Psycho trilogy, especially Bloch's sequels and their contrast to the theatrical sequels (much to Universal's chagrin). Lettering for the book covers started out as pencil sketches on Bristol board. The sketches were inked and scanned. Wallpapers were created in a variety of ways (pencil sketches, digital sketches, and vector illustration) and then digitally molded into the lettering. The gore effect, which appears on the back cover and on the front in a lighter capacity, was created by scanning blue soap-coated Brillo pads. The blue hue was shifted to appear red (and psychotic). For Psycho, I created two wallpapers to represent the Norman and Mother personalities. The bird pattern was created from two original bird sketches, which were inked, scanned, and digitally tiled. For Mom, I looked at victorian-era wallpaper samples, and came up with my own, intentionally hiding several hidden symbols, including flies and venus fly traps.
2011—Pencil, Ink, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign
Psycho 2 introduces a new personality into the fray, so I added a third wallpaper. To suggest the book's detective noir qualities, I created a black-and-white texture with heavy line work (and hidden question marks).
For the utter insanity of Psycho House I wanted to take the concept to its max. Zooming away from the title reveals an entire house covered in diverse wallpapers, including one of pentagrams (suggesting the book's theme of demonology). In addition to sketching and inking all the custom letters on these covers, the torn and tattered edges of all the wallpapers patterns were also penciled, inked, and digitally manipulated.
The layouts, including the back cover quotes and spine lettering (also sketched, inked, and scanned), were created in InDesign. A full wrap cover was created for Psycho, which included flaps for a blurb on Robert Bloch and a mini-advertisement for Psycho 2 and Psycho House.

Symphonie Fantastique Fourth Movement

Hector Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique stands apart as one of the definitive tales of doomed, unrequited love. Few stories capture the energy of the Fourth Movement's musical depiction of tragic attraction. Titled March to the Scaffold, the fourth movement uses sound alone to intricately show a lovesick artist attempt suicide and in an opium-driven hallucination, kill his beloved and watch himself being marched to his execution. Following research on 19th century France (with a focus on attire and execution procedure), I created an audio waveform of the fourth movement, rotated it 90 degrees, and illustrated around the peaks and valleys, letting the sound's shape remain as a hidden element. A scrolling animation was also created to demonstrate the sound's relationship with the illustration. Music was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra (with Riccardo Muti conducting) and is included for nonprofit educational use only.
2013—Pencil, Ink, Adobe Photoshop. Adobe After Effect for the animation

Atmospheric Beasts

This collectible poster series showcases three atmospheric beasts, an obscure subcategory within the cryptid classification. All artwork and lettering were penciled and inked in pieces on Bristol board and standard copy paper. Adobe Photoshop was used to color linework and add value, shading, and texture. Each poster measures 24 by 36 inches.
2014—Pencil, Ink, Adobe Photoshop

The Crawfordsville Monster (1 of 3) This horrible apparition was first spotted on September 5, 1891 in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The monster moves and squirms rapidly, often emitting a dreadful wheezing sound. Those who witness this terrible sight are filled with despair.

Flying Amoeba (2 of 3) Often mistaken as a UFO, the flying amoeba lives high up in Earth's atmosphere and only comes down to feed. In addition to using an indeterminate means of aerodynamic propulsion, this beast can rapidly change its own size. Exercise caution if one appears.

Wyrm (3 of 3) Few have seen a wyrm and lived to talk about it. Meaning "serpent" in Old English, the wyrm inspired medieval dragon stories. These beasts are dangerous predators and will often wrap around and strangle their prey.
Flying Amoeba (cartoon) Additionally, an animation was created to further explore the Flying Amoeba story (and dietary habits). While the original poster was created from many separate elements, additional illustration was necessary in order to create this three-dimensional world and give life to its inhabitants. The background art from The Crawfordsville Monster poster was also used to take advantage of the 16:9 aspect ratio. Gy├Ârgy Ligeti's terrifying and eerie Requiem for Soprano has been included for educational non-profit use only.

One Fear

One Fear is an exploration of spiritual, religious, and folklore-driven nightmare characters from diverse, contrasting cultures of the world. For this project, I made the paper from cotton fibers, using a spray bottle to add additional texture and pattern. A manual calendar pressing was applied to allow traditional laser printing (my illustrations and dominant text). Character and text holes were cut with an x-acto blade and then roughed up with sand paper. Some text (title page and small print descriptions) was inked by hand with technical pens. To accommodate display on the Internet, I've included the small print description text throughout the presentation below.
2013—Traditional paper making, book binding tools. Traditional illustrations, hand lettering.

Demon, Christian theology Capable of animal control, psychokinesis, and much more, demons harass and demoralize their human victims.
Tokoloshe, Zulu mythology These mischievous water sprites love to scare schoolchildren and can become invisible by drinking water.
Oni, Japanese folklore Spreading massive disaster and disease, onis deceive (and eat) humans but can be warded off with monkey statues and holly.
Lilin, Jewish mythology These night spirits steal children, seduce men, and can be found hovering in shady spots on a moonlit night.
Pishacha, Hindu mythology This evil flesh-eater haunts cremation grounds and makes humans insane with thought-altering powers of madness.
Wendigo, Native American legend A cannibal, this half-beast has insatiable hunger and grows proportionately in size with each human it consumes.
Jinn, Islamic theology Evil jinn eat bones for nourishment and are capable of traveling great distances at incredible speed.

Brundlefly Typographic Poster

This quote from David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986), truly captures the complex, multi-layered film, and also suggests Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. While I originally began pursuing this design in a digital medium, I switched to physical to obtain a grittier, more realistic look. The poster is a composite of nearly 25 different photographs of three-dimensional letters I sculpted. The first line I'm an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it and the surname brundle were cut out of presentation board (foam sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard). The rest of the text was cut out of separate pieces of foam and then glued onto the presentation board. The word awake was attached with sewing pins to create an additional layer of separation. Glowing green slime was made (with the recipe used to create the alien's blood in Predator 2). After the top line was filled with slime, photographs were taken with black light shown on different sections of the poster. The amount of slime was increased over the span of nearly 300 photos. By the end of the shoot, the original poster was nearly destroyed. The best photos were then selected and composited together, using the different black light angles for letter coloring.
2012—Adobe Photoshop *compositing and minor letter tweaks only

Fraggles vs. Minions

Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock (1983-1987) has always been important to me, since I first watched it as a child in the 80s. Fraggles do the right thing. They represent good. Reversing that concept, my mind is immediately drawn to the 1987 children's horror film, The Gate. When I was little, the very different, small, underground-dwelling creatures from this film (Minions) felt completely contrary to the goodness of Fraggle Rock. The minions, and the amazing stop-motion and forced perspective work that brought them to life, are truly evil.
2011—Ink, Graphite, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator


This meta-narrative (the first in a series of two images) explores personal recollections of tragedy during childhood and suggests a general discussion on the interaction between children and disaster, based on observations during my deployment with the marine corps to Iraq (2003). The year 1986 (I lived in Germany, six years old) serves as a catalyst event, and incorporates the Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion (January 28, 1986), Chernobyl Disaster (April 26, 1986), learning to ride a bike, and seeing Ghostbusters in the theater.
2013—Zinc plate, dry point and aquatint etching


Created from images I photographed (excluding two in which I appeared in the photo), this meta-narrative analyzes the tragedy themes of Challenger (the previous image) and the role of temporal distance. The sky was created from photographs taken after explosions. The mountain was sculpted from pink insulation foam. Photographs of ancient ruins (Babylon, Iraq) were added, along with a photograph of a NECA terror dog, different angles on the bottom of a chair, and an image of myself at six years old.
2013—Solar plate print, Photography, Adobe Photoshop for transparency composition

Hummingbird Down

Hummingbird Down was a passion project for me. I researched, wrote, designed, illustrated, and lettered this book in a two year time span (approximately), but I first had the rough story ideas back in 1998. This project began with research—ornithology, myth and folklore regarding ruby-throated hummingbirds. I also studied reading and writing for children, especially leveling books for appropriate age ranges. In Hummingbird Down, the complexity, themes, vocabulary and grammar (such as the use of compound sentences) are appropriate for 4th–5th graders (minimum).

The design and illustration process was fairly straight-forward. The tight deadline, however, really put my skillsets (and sanity) to the test, often requiring creative, and sometimes unusual, work-arounds to produce what I wanted in much less time than I wanted. Only color was created digitally. All illustration (and all lettering) was created oversized (minimum 150%) by hand (paper, pencil and ink).
2015—Mixed media, Photoshop, InDesign

front cover

back cover

sample spreads

Here are a few sample spreads from the 88 page book. These appear out of context, but do provide a brief glimpse at the overall scope of the story.

Here are two close-ups on a couple of the spreads above, to help show the level of detail that was incorporated into the illustration. I'm a strong believer in the power of depth as a device to foster interactivity and immersion.

Hummingbird Down was the final project for my masters. Overall, the project was completed throughout 2013–2015. Most of that time was spent on research and writing. Actual production (illustration, design, lettering, etc.) happened in one frantic semester. When it was finished, the book was on exhibition at George Mason University's School of Art gallery in December 2015.

Here's a closer look at the final hard cover prototype (Version VII).
Will replace with better photographs soon, I promise! —PLP